How to Transition Between Tasks at Work

Chris Heinz - September 17, 2013

If you’re like me, you may often slide between job tasks instead of moving purposefully from one to the next.

Your work style isn’t decisive—it’s accidental. Did you ever think, “Oops, how did I get to doing this?” At the end of the day, you can’t easily recall what you accomplished even though you’re sure you did some work. You hope your boss thinks so.

What you and I are missing is a deliberate transition between job tasks.

There are dangers of not transitioning well:


  • Loss of satisfaction. It feels good to finish a task, but when you slide from one task to another, you can lose the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

  • Applying the wrong kind of thinking. There are different kinds of thinking that contribute to the success of a task—for example, analytical, creative, or strategic. Without a clear transition, you may apply the previous task’s right thinking to the next, which may end up being wrong thinking.

  • Lack of purpose. Instead of recalling your individual tasks, all you can remember is that you “did some stuff.” Why do they keep you around, anyway?

  • Decreased productivity. When there’s no transition, there’s no planning. When you fail to plan, you’re not as productive. It’s too easy to flounder and drift off course.

  • Exhaustion. Working like this is downright tiring. Without transitions, there’s no respite and no relief. There’s a reason work is called work, but work doesn’t have to exhaust you. Failing to transition will exhaust you quicker.


So would you agree that our work would be better if we transitioned better?

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If so, here are some ideas on how to transition well between tasks:

Get out of your seat. When you finish a task, get up. Go for a walk, or at least down the hall. Refill your drink. Move your body. Do something physical. Using your body will refresh your brain.

Reward yourself. When you’ve completed your task, celebrate. Visit the snack closet. Listen to a favorite song. Call your spouse. Check Facebook.

Before you start a new task, plan it out. Try to answer a few basic questions such as: What’s the purpose of this task? What does success look like? What tools are most appropriate? How will I know when my task is done?

Prepare your mind to begin anew. Clear your mind from distractions. Your brain is like a stage, and too many onstage actors can ruin the production (Your Brain at Work by David Rock). Instead of having to remember to buy milk on the way home, just write it down. Then ask yourself, what kind of thinking does the next task require?

Transitioning well takes discipline. But the gains are well worth the effort, in the workplace and in life.

If we transition well, we’ll feel more satisfied, purposeful, and productive—and we’ll know why the boss keeps us around.

What are other ways to transition well between job tasks? You can comment by clicking here.

Topics: The Workplace

Chris Heinz

About the Author
Chris Heinz

Chris is Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., which helps organizations get value from their utility bills through energy management software. He's an Associate Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, and a Certified Professional Life Coach. He also started www.Munyay.com to help people love their life and love their work.

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